BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - A proposal to resolve the issue of intra-regional travel and the resuscitation of LIAT will be presented to the sub-regional Tourism Ministers next month.
There have been talks about the importance of regional travel in light of the collapse of the Antigua-based airline, with a number of agencies and governments speaking publicly about the way forward.
Melford Nichols, Antigua’s Minister of Information, disclosed that a proposal would be presented to Cabinet by representatives of LIAT 2020 on the way forward, and that would then be the basis for a potential document being shown to the OECS Tourism Ministers.
“We are imminently poised to launch LIAT 2020. And the proposed invitation to participate has been sent to a number of OECS Governments. The Ministry of Tourism will be hosting the OECS Ministers of Tourism early next month, and during that meeting as well the Tourism Minister did invite Minister of Finance and a team from LIAT 2020 to use the forum to make a pitch to the other Ministers of Tourism within the OECS to increase the onboarding interest in LIAT 2020,” noted Nicolas.
Pressure is mounting on regional leaders to get the problem of intra-regional travel resolved due to the rising cost of travel across borders in the Caribbean Community.
Since the collapse of LIAT and the rising cost of fuel on the international market, it has been pains for residents in the region to move; some persons are being forced to overnight in some locations while others are being made to transit through the United States or Europe to get to their destination in the Caribbean.
In most cases, it is cheaper for persons to travel through the United States to other destinations in the region than to do intra-regional travel. But the absence of LIAt is still creating a nightmare situation because not many people are afforded the luxury of qualifying for a US Visa.
In recognizing the challenge, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit recently stressed that the company needs money in order to ensure there is some viability and continuity of the service.
“What we need is very simple. We all need to put money on the table. That is the solution to the problem. People criticize the issue of LIAT’s management and so forth…what we need is money!” he said while addressing reporters at the just concluded World Creole Music Festival.
But even as money remains a critical part of the resuscitation process, discussion surrounding aircraft and route is another sticking point.
Nichols revealed in his Post Cabinet Press briefing that LIAT 2020 would be leasing planes from LIAT 1974 Limited, and that would be as the company manages its transition period to increase its fleet of planes to become viable.
“...it is going to be dependent on how quickly the intended shareholder arrangement matures,” he added.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is also seeking to have all interested in the service come on board as shareholders, as Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves noted during a recent SKNVibes interview that there are too many freeloaders being offset by the four OECS member states.
“Other countries could not be free riders in the process. Every country has to chip in if we are going to have an effective regional travel solution,” he told SKNVbes at the IMF/ World Bank Meeting.